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Tuesday, 7 December 1971
Page: 4207

Mr PETTITT (Hume) - After listening to the last speech I am not surprised that the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) made his comment at the Launceston Conference about the experts in his Party. It is quite understandable. Tonight 1 want to deal with another side of the question altogether. While I support the Bill in principle I want to protest very strongly about the elimination from this benefit of the second largest cooperative cannery in New South Wales, which is in my electorate. Here is a cannery that has made an effort to diversify and improve its return. Today it is trading quite satisfactorily, except for the longterm, hard-core debt in which it is involved largely by the action of other less efficient canneries.

The Mountain Maid factory at Batlow claims that the Commonwealth Government has drawn a line through the electors of New South Wales by assisting only one of the 2 big co-operatives in New South Wales on an unjustified premise when the financial situation of the 2 factories is very similar. The Mountain Maid Cannery is just as entitled to Commonwealth assistance as Letona was. In some ways it is more entitled to assistance because it has been a more efficient factory in many ways. The whole town and district of Batlow are dependent on the cannery for their livelihood. The success of the cannery is most important to a whole rural community. The financial problems facing this factory are exactly the same as those facing other factories that have received assistance. As far as one can discern, the reason given by the inter-departmental committee for not granting assistance to the Mountain Maid Cannery was that it did not depend on deciduous fruits. I do not know what apples are if they are not deciduous fruits.

This factory at Batlow made serious attempts, back in the days when we were in trouble with exports, to graft on to the types of pears it could not export other types of pears and changing over to other types of fruit so that it could enter the local market. Today we find that Batlow is selling most of its fruit on the local market through its own efforts to diversify. The people of Batlow feel that they have had a pretty raw deal. I appeal to the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) and the Government to have another look at the Mountain Maid Cannery. It is the second largest employer of labour in southern New South Wales. Each year it pays out over $lm in wages and over Sim to growers in the area for raw material. Batlow is a one hotel town - in other words, a small town. With the exception of the State Forestry Commission it depends almost solely on the cannery and the packing house there for its livelihood and its prosperity.

The factory has been canning fruit for a long time. When it became difficult to sell certain varieties, the factory diversified by grafting and changing the varieties. That is the reason that it has been able to carry on reasonably successfully. The bulk of its market is not for export. Three-quarters of the other factories have been caught without the same long range view. The Batlow factory has developed a local market for its fruit as well as markets in the Near East and in the Pacific. I believe that the Mountain Maid Cannery is entitled to support. While I strongly support the Bill I want to get the point across that Batlow, because it has justified itself by its efficiency, has been excluded from the support that the other factories have received. This factory needs it just as much as they do. In fact, it can justify such support on economic grounds to a much greater extent than other factories can. I appeal to the Minister and to the Government to have another look at the position at Batlow.

The whole community depends upon the factory. They do not can only fruit at Batlow. They can peas, beans and asparagus. The largest area of asparagus in the southern hemisphere is grown at Gundagai and canned at Batlow. There is more than just the canning of fruit dependent on the success of the Batlow cannery and packing house. I support the principle of the Bill in giving assistance to canneries on which the livelihood of so many country people depends. But 1 appeal to the Government and to the Minister to support an industry that, by its own efforts, is more successful than those that are receiving support.

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